A little over a year after it was passed by India’s Parliament, the Anti-Hijacking Act, 2016 — a new and tougher law — quietly came into effect on July 5 after a formal gazette notification by the ministry of civil aviation.
Under the new law, the perpetrators of a hijacking are now punishable with death should the hijacking result in the death of any person — including ground handling staff and airport personnel — or with life imprisonment or with a fine.
Earlier, the death penalty was applicable only in the case of the death of hostages or security personnel.
The new law also allows for the confiscation of the offenders’ moveable and immoveable property.
Another key feature of the new law is that it widens the definition of hijacking from “in-flight” to “in-service”.
That means an aircraft will be considered to be in-service from the time it is being prepared for a specific flight by the crew or ground personnel to until 24 hours after it lands.
The new law also expands the definition of a hijacker.
A hijacker is now any person who organises a hijacking or directs others to commit one, a person who participates in a hijacking, and one who assists any person to evade investigation, prosecution, or punishment for a hijacking.
The new law also enhances the jurisdiction Indian courts can exercise in a hijacking case.
Under its provisions, Indian courts will be able to exercise jurisdiction over a hijacking anywhere — should the offence be committed against or by an Indian citizen on board a flight, irrespective of the country where the offence is committed.
That includes hijackings by stateless persons.